Springfield para-athlete Marstella making Clark County history

Cutline: Springfield High School junior Jadyn Marstella competes in the seated shot put at the Greenon Invitational on Tuesday, April 20. Earlier this season, Marstella became the first Clark County para-athlete to qualify for the OHSAA Track and Field Championships. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Cutline: Springfield High School junior Jadyn Marstella competes in the seated shot put at the Greenon Invitational on Tuesday, April 20. Earlier this season, Marstella became the first Clark County para-athlete to qualify for the OHSAA Track and Field Championships. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

SPRINGFIELD — A few months ago, Jadyn Marstella wasn’t thinking about competing — she was simply hoping to spend more time with her friends as the manager for the Springfield High School track and field squad.

Earlier this season, Wildcats throws coaches Tim Seelig and Nathan Kawailima came to her with an idea — competing in the seated shot put.

“They always said they were going to get me to throw,” she said.

Two meets into her career, Marstella is already making history. At the Xenia Invitational on April 16, Marstella became the first para-athlete to compete in Springfield High School history. Her teammates lined the shot put pit as she attempted her throws.

“It’s crazy,” Marstella said. “It’s the first sports thing I’ve ever done. It’s big to go through these steps and everything. It’s crazy.”

With a throw of 9 feet, 3 inches, she qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association Track and Field championships at Hilliard Bradley High School on June 4 and 5. She’s the first Clark County para-athlete to qualify for the OHSAA’s seated division.

“I love it a lot when my team is there,” she said. “They’re very supportive. When they cheer me on, it makes it better. I just zone out and focus on pushing.”

Jadyn has been defying the odds her entire life. The Springfield High School junior was born with lipomeningocele, a rare form of spina bifida that required several surgeries and yearly check-ups. When doctors told her family she’d never walk again, Marstella proved everyone wrong.

“She can walk, but for her to go 10 feet it would take 20 minutes,” said her father Justin Marstella, who also serves as the Wildcats hurdles coach. “She doesn’t let it get her down. It’s a God thing, That’s who we give all the credit. She’s living proof that you can defy the odds.”

In 2013, the OHSAA began offering four sports for para-athletes as part of its track and field seated division — the 100 meters, 400, 800 and shot put. Athletes in the shot put may be assisted by coaches in getting to the competition area and entering and leaving the circle, according to the OHSAA’s website.

“We want more exposure for other kids who may want to compete for their school, but they don’t know how,” Justin Marstella said.

It hasn’t quite registered that she’s the first para-athlete in school history, Jadyn said.

“It’s weird to think about it that way, especially at my age,” she said. “If this gets other people doing it and they really love it, I’m all for that. Hopefully, it will encourage people to do it if they want to and get that ball rolling.”

Marstella’s presence has inspired her teammates, said Wildcats track coach Marcus Clark.

“As coach, it’s a great thing, especially with a kid like her,” he said. “She’s a special kid. All the kids look up to her. They love her.”

At the Greenon Invitational on April 20, Jadyn threw a career-best 10 feet, 0.5 inches. She currently ranks third in the state in the seated shot put, according to MileSplit.com. She’s got lofty goals for the rest of the season — including winning a state championship.

“I think I can as long as I keep practicing and push myself,” she said. “My goal is to get an 18. I’d like to beat the record and keep going farther than that. I’m just going to keep working really hard and go for it.”

She’s currently throwing in her wheelchair, but students at the Global Impact STEM Academy are working to fabricate her throwing chair similar to what other para-athletes use, she said.

“With my chair, I can only go so far back to rotate,” Jadyn said. “I think once we do that and start working with it that I’ll be able to throw a lot farther than what I am as long as I keep practicing and put a lot of work into it.”

“She’ll be able fully recoil and let that thing fly,” Justin said.

Jadyn is still getting used to being an athlete. She called it a privilege to put on her Wildcats jersey and compete with her teammates.

“We were talking on Sunday because she medaled in her flight and she asked, ‘So, I can get more of these?’,” Justin said. “I told her, ‘Yeah, and if you win state, you get one that’s in the shape of Ohio’. She said, ‘I think I could get used to this’.”

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